Everyone knows George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Barack Obama, but do you remember who the 2nd president of the United States was? Today we’ll get an answer to the question of who John Adams is and how his presidency changed the United States of America!
Who is John Adams?
John Adams (1735-1826) was the first vice president of the United States of America and, after the first election held, the second president. After barely beating out Thomas Jefferson, he served one term in office and tried to make lasting changes within the government through his highly opinionated and just ideals.
John Adams: America’s First Vice President
Beyond simply being the second president of the United States, John Adams had a very similar start to George Washington and many of his cabinet members. In addition, he was a Founding Father who aided the other colonies during the Revolutionary War.
Though much of Adams’ life was spent as a politician, be it as a statesman, an attorney, or his presidency, where John Adams shined in his political philosophy. His most famous line of philosophy still holds light within our many levels of government and even society today: “People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity.”
Adams’ was an interesting character in the Oval Office. But his various opinions made him a controversial figure during the early ages of the American government. How? Well, that’s what we’re here to learn!
John Adams, the Second President of the United States
It’s important to garner knowledge from every U.S. president, even those who may not have made as big of a splash as others. In his way, John Adams paved the way for many future presidents with his intelligence and passion.
Life in Brief: John Adams for Kids
Studying the presidents can be a tough task for kids of all ages. But teachers and students alike will learn something new today!
Famous Facts About John Adams
- Despite being the second president, John Adams was the first president to live full-time in the White House after it was established in Washington, D.C.
- Before the United States Constitution, John Adams wrote the Massachusetts Constitution, which is still implemented in the New England area today. The Massachusetts Constitution was a baseline for the United States Constitution that we know today!
- Being a Federalist, John Adams fought for a strong central government during his initial election period. Unfortunately, it put him at odds with Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican set on awarding states rights instead. This friction between the two later turned into a friendship built on letter writing that lasted until both deaths.
What was John Adams Best Known For?
John Adams was a brilliant political philosopher and patriot who fought hard to award America as many liberties as possible. Before he served his single term as president, though, John Adams was best known for his diplomatic actions and leadership as the vice president, where he made various strides to aid the poor and the cruelly treated against other Founding Fathers who had different ideas for the American government.
What did John Adams do to Change the World?
Along with the other Founding Fathers, John Adams changed the world by leading the fight for independence during the Revolutionary War. He acted as a diplomat for Holland and France, which is how he gained a lot of fame for his discussions of peace treaties and negotiations. However, his greatest accomplishment and contribution was his ability to inspire others to fight for independence and freedom!
John Adams: Early Years
Everyone has to start somewhere, and even if John Adams didn’t have any strong connection to cherry trees or state pride, his birthplace and early years hold foundational moments that built up his political ideology and opinionated personality!
When and Where was John Adams Born?
John Adams was born October 30, 1735 (or, in the Old Style, or Julian calendar, October 19, 1753) on a farm owned by his family in Braintree, Massachusetts. His father was both a farmer and a town councilman for Braintree.
Adams grew up as the eldest of three brothers, all of whom were born as their family’s Puritan sensibilities waned considerably from the original religion’s intensity.
John Adams’ Family
John Adams’ mother, Susanna Boylston, was the daughter of a medical family from a nearby town and was well-versed in medical knowledge and religious practices. Her husband and Adams’ father, John Adams’ Sr., held various roles throughout the city. He was a deacon, a lieutenant in the Massachusetts National Guard, a farmer and the owner of the family farm, a shoemaker, and a town councilman who was often in charge of building roads and schoolhouses.
Adams’ two younger brothers, Peter and Elihu, later also became soldiers in the Massachusetts National Guard and had their hand in the family business of farming. John Adams mostly spoke of his closeness to his father in his writing. His father’s true nature for John to learn as much as possible and work within the town of Braintree’s government inspired Adams’ path toward higher education. He also spoke fondly of his mother, stating she was “someone who wished to build character within her children.”
John Adams’ Childhood
In his childhood, John Adams was noted to love the outdoors. Like many children his age, he would spend his days running through the woods or fields, hunting, and fishing with his brothers. This childhood experience drew him towards the family business of farming, but John Adams Sr. was insistent that John Adams Jr. seek out an education. From this insistence came John’s first experiences in a classroom setting without wishing to skip out.
John Adam’s Education and Hobbies
The first school John Adams attended was a local dame school, a schoolhouse run by a single female teacher meant to bestow the basics of education on the town’s children. At this dame school, John Adams learned to read, write, and adjust to basic arithmetic (that’s old-school slang for math!).
Later on, John Adams attended a Latin school that offered a higher education and was meant to hopefully draw him down the path of becoming a deacon like his father. But instead, Adams took this preparatory school seriously and used his time there to study hard and attend Harvard College by the time he turned 15.
His time in Harvard killed any interest in joining the church and drew his interest toward law. After graduating, he taught at another Latin school for a few years and eventually saved up enough money to pay a famous Worcester lawyer to train him.
John Adams: The Founding Father
There are countless Founding Fathers to learn about, and John Adams happens to be one of them! Learn how he helped the other colonies win the Revolutionary War below!
The American Revolution and The Founding Fathers
In the 1700s, the Thirteen Colonies of America, Massachusetts, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, were under British rule. Though this was fine throughout most of the century, during the 1760s, the British government attempted to use the colonies to pay their debts from the French and Indian War they had recently been a part of. From these attempts came higher taxes for the American colonies.
These taxes offended and angered the colonists, who went to the streets and their government to attempt to lower the taxes. It resulted in the Boston Massacre, where British soldiers fired shots into a crowd of protesters and killed them. This event and, later on, the Boston Tea Party, where colonists threw British tea into the harbor waters in protest, sowed the seeds for the revolution to come.
The Founding Fathers came forth through this revolution. They united the colonies to fight against the British army that fell upon the nation in their attempts to regain order. These men helped establish America as an independent nation and were even the drafters and signers of the United States Declaration of Independence. These Founding Fathers were George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams.
John Adams and the American Revolution
During the beginning of the war, the British Parliament revoked the Massachusetts Charter, and Great Britain stalled all trials from Massachusetts. This outrageous act, named The Intolerable Acts, spurred together all the colonies to hold the first Continental Congress meeting. During this meeting of the best minds in the colonies, John Adams was chosen as one of the five delegates to represent his home state of Massachusetts.
This decision would guide John Adams from the beginning of the war to the end, where his written and spoken words helped to inspire the people of the American colonies to fight against their common enemy, the British. He was one of the few delegates who understood that their independence could not be gained by word alone, though, and he advocated for war during the second meeting of the Continental Congress. Battles occurred from then on until the Declaration of Independence was drafted.
John Adams was one of the first to agree to a declaration to give the British to declare the united colonies as independent states, and also one of the few to turn to Thomas Jefferson to draft the official document, stating these as reasons for his being unfit to write: “Reason first: You are a Virginian and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second: I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third: You can write ten times better than I can.”
The war raged on as the declaration was drafted. Finally, John Adams was appointed to the Board of War, where he fought for George Washington’s needs on the battlefront.
After a decisive battle late into the war, he returned home for a short time before being appointed as a commissioner of France, where he and other delegates would discuss peace negotiations and ask for aid in the war with the French. This call for aid perhaps helped the united colonies gain their independence, and once the battles were over, all of the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence!
John Adams: Vice President
Though John Adams was humiliated by his loss to George Washington for the role of president, he took up the vice president role due to his wish to be George Washington’s successor. As vice president, his roles included presiding over proceedings within Congress and acting basically as the president’s right-hand man– both of these tasks left John Adams feeling worthless, as he thought he had less say than when he was allowed to debate within Congress itself.
John Adams did not do much during his vice presidency and instead used it as a stepping stone to gain what he truly wanted: the presidency.
John Adams Presidency
John Adams’ presidency was rife with hardships and unpopular votes. Yet, despite this, he successfully steered the U.S. away from another war. How? Well, read on to find out!
When was John Adams Elected?
John Adams was elected in 1796 and sworn into office on March 4, 1797, as the first and only president to run under the Federalist Party. It was a close race between him and fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, with whom he shared a strained friendship based on their differing political ideology.
With this win, John Adams finally gained the title he wanted, and with Thomas Jefferson as his vice president, John began his venture into the presidency with bright eyes and big ideas.
What did John Adams do during his Presidency?
John Adams retained George Washington’s Cabinet for his term, a move that Thomas Jefferson noted was because the men of the Cabinet were more loyal to Adams than Jefferson. Despite this, John Adams was an independent politician who did not turn to the Cabinet often for decision-making. This annoyed Alexander Hamilton, who was decisively Washington’s actual right-hand man. The letter detailing policy suggestions from Hamilton was actively ignored by Adams, much to the other man’s dismay.
During the later half of Washington’s presidency and continuing through Adams’, the French were back at war with the British due to conflicts within the French Revolution. Adams and the other Federalists decided to keep America out of the war, much to the chagrin of the French, who had supported Jefferson during the election and now saw Adams as someone who would not send them aid.
Fearing retaliation against this lack of aid, John Adams attempted to build defenses for possible war and even sent delegates to read a speech of peace between the warring countries that was met with backlash. This failed peace mission was perhaps due to Adams’ aggression in the written speech, but when this came to light, the public grew more favorable towards John Adams and instead turned to want full-scale war against the French.
In an unpopular move, John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which targeted immigrants and allowed the president to push for greater deportation and increased the requirement for citizenship. These laws were unpopular within the house, especially to the Republicans, who grew unified in their hate for the way these laws treated people.
All this tension with the French spurred the Quasi-War, an undeclared naval war between America and France. American ships would take on French ships to hopefully slow their superior army. However, America was not ready for another war so soon, as they were still rebuilding from the Revolutionary War and were still a new nation. Despite this, John Adam’s aid in preparing naval defense during the shadows of war that had threatened American waters earned him the title of “Father of the American Navy.” Various small battles and rebellions took place during this time, and the Cabinet began to feel the tension within its walls.
John Adams began to seek peace around the time the French Revolution ended, and George Washington passed. However, his frustrations with the Hamilton loyalists who wished to keep the provisional army that Alexander Hamilton commanded began to fray the Federalists’ bonds. His ways of avoiding war eventually paid off when Napoleon asked for friendly relations after taking over the French government. Still, all of his decisions split Adams’ party.
The White House’s construction was completed close to the end of John Adams’ presidency. He moved in and became the first president to stay within the capital as a resident. However, his stay was short, and the Elections of 1800 ended with him firmly defeated by Thomas Jefferson, thanks to some help from Alexander Hamilton. As a result, John Adams only served one term as president.
Was John Adams a Federalist?
John Adams was indeed a Federalist! A Federalist is a member of the Federalist party within the United States that was against states having individual rights within their government. Instead, Federalists would fight for a strong, unified government to take over a nation’s responsibilities. John Adams was a strong advocate of unification, which may have made him an unpopular running man within the U.S. government.
John Adams’ Legacy
Despite being unpopular in his heyday, John Adams was a brilliant mind who helped to shape American ideals and build national pride and unity. Though many remembered him as arrogant and opinionated, those attributes allowed him to speak his mind freely. John Adama’s legacy cannot be forgotten, be it his political philosophy which many still study today, or even his son, who would become president and make his changes. That is the legacy John Adams left behind!
John Adams’ Wife and Children
John Adams married Abigail Smith on October 25, 1764. The two shared a similar personality, a love for books and writing, and were able to be candid with each other. Their love grew through pen pal letters during John’s time working during the war and attending Congress. Together, they had six children: Abigail “Nabby,” John Quincy Adams, Susanna, Charles, Thomas, and Elizabeth.
Though John did not write of his feelings for his children, it can be assumed he pushed them to pursue education if they so wished. His first son, John Quincy Adams, even followed in his father’s footsteps and became the 6th president of the United States.
John Adams’ Death
John Adams died July 4, 1826, from a mix of old age and sickness. Funnily enough, he died the same day as Thomas Jefferson. The two had rekindled their friendship through letter writing in their waning years, and John Adams’ last words were reported as “Thomas Jefferson survives.” He had been unaware that Jefferson had passed hours early. He was remembered by his family and the various institutes set up in his name in memoriam.
John Adams’ Achievements
From peace negotiations to philosophy, John Adams lived a life full of amazing accomplishments.
Why is John Adams Important?
John Adams was the first vice president and second president of the United States. His differing governing style and Federalist nature made him unpopular to many. Still, to those who study his philosophy and his fight for freedom for ALL people, he is a man of great status and intelligence.
Along with his wife, John Adams fought for the rights of enslaved people, put words to feelings so that future politicians may study his work to better aid their politics, and even sired a future president whose own presidency would lead America down a new and exciting path.
Finally, without John Adams, the drafting of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Constitution may have been set to the wayside. His peace negotiations were important during the Revolutionary War, and he stands as important as the other Founding Fathers.
John Adams Facts for Students
- John Adams never owned an enslaved person and was against slavery. Despite this fact, he did little to try and break this habit due to the faltering unity of the South. Abigail Adams, his wife, fought vehemently against slavery.
- After the British Massacre, where British soldiers killed five colonists, John Adams defended seven British soldiers in court and managed to win their case!
- He kept more than 1,000 correspondences with various friends and family members, including Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.
- He fought for the president to have the title “His Highness,” which was quickly vetoed by other members of the Cabinet.
- There is no monument for John Adams in the capital, Washington, D.C. Though many buildings are named for him, there is no statue in his honor.